WARRENSBURG - The Warrensburg town board members froze the pay of the town's top elected officials and cut their own pay by 16 percent as they cited the financial hardships taxpayers are enduring and the need to keep taxes as low as possible.
The moves, which save a total of $10,000 annually, were taken Monday amid emotionally-charged discussion as the board crafted a preliminary 2010 budget.
The salary to serve on town council was reduced from $5,300 to $4,444 per year.
The board decided to eliminate a planned 3.5 percent raise for the town Highway Superintendent, two town justices, and the Town Clerk. The town Water Superintendent and Public Works chief, Rick Galusha, voluntarily gave up his planned 3.5 percent raise after seeing the cuts proposed for the elected officials.
Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty voted along with the other board members to abolish his own planned 2.5 percent raise .
"I'm going to come in here and work every day regardless of how much I'm paid," Geraghty said.
A similar freeze to the salaries of the town Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer - proposed at the meeting - were shelved because the board members said they were recent hires and they'd recently undergone considerable training and \\would be costly to replace.
Town Clerk Donna Combs, who works well over 40 hours weekly for her salary, said she'd likely be trimming some office hours in light of the pay freeze. She objected to how board members Dean Ackley and Austin Markey had waited late in the budget-forming process to propose the cuts. Several board members accused the two of pandering to voters during an election year, but Markey responded the cuts were merely "the right thing to do" considering the economic climate. Ackley said he'd proposed pay freezes for years.
Combs noted that the board members were not only paid cash for their official work of several hours per month, but received health insurance coverage worth $4,800 to $13,924 per year, which equated to $532 to over $1,000 per hour, she said. Officials said those health benefits extend - for council members serving more than ten years - for a lifetime.